The teacher whose classroom social studies project became a subject of interest among members of the Knox County Republicans said he was both disappointed and puzzled by their actions.

“They came into my room, went through things, stole a poster and then criticized what they saw at a snapshot in time,” said Paul Clifford, who teaches eighth-grade social studies at the King Middle School in Portland.

The Maine Republican Party held its convention in Portland over the past weekend. The party used the school for its various county delegations to hold caucuses. The Knox County delegation was assigned to the room used by Clifford.

The poster that was taken from the door of his classroom was one featuring the history of the labor movement in the United States.

The state Republican Party issued an apology May 11 for the incident. “The King Middle School was kind enough to allow the Maine Republican Party to use their facilities and we are deeply concerned about the lack of respect shown to the faculty,” the apology said. “The Maine Republican Party does not condone the destruction of property nor does it encourage the lack of tolerance that these people demonstrated. Over 900 other people attended these caucuses without incident and I hope that the actions of few do not tarnish the image of many. We appreciate the hospitality of the staff from the King Middle School and hope to work with them again in the future. We sincerely apologize to the faculty and student body at King Middle School.”

On May 12, the state office announced the poster was being returned but did not identify who took the poster.

Two local Republicans who were in the room said they were unaware the poster had been taken and instead criticized what they saw in the classroom.

Steven Dyer of Rockland said he was concerned about what was coming out of that school from those students. He said the posters made by students were anti-American, anti-white and anti-religious.

Dyer took photographs of the posters and posted them on his Facebook page.

William Chapman of Rockport also said the posters were very negative about the United States and its military. He said he has received a number of complaints about the posters.

One poster cited by Dyer was a collage that showed former President George W. Bush without eyes and saying, “I can still see the face of evil.” Dyer said he was also offended by a poster that had a swastika in the place of the “O” for FOX News.

Chapman said he was offended by the poster that portrayed the Nestle company in a poor light for its efforts to extract water for its Poland Spring bottling plants.

The teacher, however, said these critics have completely missed the point.

He said that for each of the past 10 years, one student project has been to study the Bill of Rights. One exercise has been for students to do an art project that expresses free speech.

“We don’t tell the kids in any way, shape or form what to say,” Clifford said. He said if someone wanted to defend government’s action the project would have been displayed without question.

He said that Portland and the section of the city where the King Middle School is located is heavily Democratic and has elected a member of the Green Party to the Legislature. He said it should not be surprising that the expressions of the students reflect the sentiments of their parents.

“I’m sure if you went to any county, even Knox County, students’ work would reflect the influence of their parents, as it should be,” Clifford said.

The social studies teacher said that free speech is an important right and that to criticize the government is part of that right.

Clifford said that what he does in the classroom is not a secret to the parents. He said it has been done for years and the entire curriculum is posted online for the parents and the public to see.

He said he believes the visitors to his room went over the line. He said he is not interested, however, in learning the identity of the person who took his poster since it is being returned.

The Knox County Republican delegation also gained attention this week when it introduced and gained passage of a new political platform for the statewide Republican Party.